Lucid is recalling several hundred of its new Air sedans to address a mechanical issue that can lead to a loss of drive power. The EV startup says the problem is likely to manifest only in a handful of its vehicles (with 99.999% confidence, no less) because believe it or not, there’s an app for that. We’re being a bit flippant, but like Tesla and the slew of mainstream automakers who followed, Lucid is empowering its over-the-air (OTA) update system to help resolve the problem.
As we noted at the top, the issue here is actually a moving part: a spring. It’s built into a component called the contactor, which is the electrically activated switch that controls power flow to the electric drive system. When the contactor is open, the Lucid Air is in the equivalent of “Accessory” mode in an ICE; the radio and such can be used, but the car’s electric motors aren’t available. The spring we mentioned above holds the contactor open (off). When the car is turned on, the computer (running on accessory power) activates an electromagnet that pulls the switch closed (on). In some cases, Lucid says the spring force may overcome the force of the magnet, letting the contactor stick in the open (off) position without warning.
“If a contactor opens unexpectedly while driving, the vehicle’s electric motors will no longer be supplied power. This may lead to a loss of propulsion without pre-warning and may increase the risk of a crash,” Lucid’s defect report said. “The driver would not receive a warning prior to an unexpected contactor opening as a result of this condition. When an unexpected contactor opening occurs, the driver receives notifications of a system fault and that driving power is reduced. Vehicle displays, power steering, and power brakes will continue to function as they are not powered by the high voltage system.”
This is where Lucid’s OTA trickery comes into play. The company’s software team slipped a diagnostic tool into a recent update. This tag-along can detect the electronic signature created when a spring overpowers its magnet inside the contactor. With this data, Lucid knows which cars need attention from a technician. The only exceptions are those which, for whatever reason, have not been updated to the latest version of Lucid’s onboard software; they will be asked to update their cars as the first step in conducting the recall.
Some owners have already been notified of the issue; those whose vehicles were identified later in the process will be notified starting in April.